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Sugar Facts: Part 2

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Continuing from our last segment on sugar facts, here are more lesser known facts about sugar.

Continuing from our last segment on sugar facts, here are more lesser known facts about sugar.

Eliminating Sugars from Your Diet Is Not Necessary in Order to Lose Weight

Close up of a measuring tape around slim beautiful waist. Because sugars are ingredients in junk food, it may be natural to suspect that they have a role in contributing to over-consumption and increased body weight. Conversely, high sugar intake is often linked to lower BMI. Several studies have found that as the percent of sugar in the diet increases, body weight and BMI decrease. In a 2002 report on dietary carbohydrates and sugars, the Institute of Medicine noted that for both children and adults, higher intakes of sugars tend to be associated with lower BMI or obesity. Studies also have examined whether diets high in sugars make losing weight more difficult. When compared to a weight-loss diet high in complex carbohydrates, a weight-loss diet high in sugars resulted in similar weight loss amounts with no effect on dieters moods, concentration, or hunger levels. In addition, both weight loss groups experienced similar improvements in their blood pressure levels and plasma lipid levels. What matters for weight management is total caloric intake balanced with physical activity, not one specific food or type of food.

Moderate Amounts of Sugars Are Part of a Healthful Diet and Fit into the Dietary Guidelines for Americans

For more than 20 years, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans has provided the basis for healthful eating advice for Americans two years of age and older. Every five years, a committee of acknowledged nutrition scientists and experts reviews the current scientific data on nutrition and health. Following their review, they develop a set of healthful eating guidelines, some of which have changed over the years and some of which have remained remarkably similar to past advice. In general, the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans emphasize the importance of consuming a diet high in nutrients yet modest in calories, a concept known as nutrient density. Although sugars themselves are not sources of vitamins or minerals, they can increase the enjoyment of foods like dairy products, such as yogurt or milk, or whole grains such as cereals, which are significant sources of nutrients.

Glycemic Index Ratings Are Not Practical for Most People to Use

The glycemic index (GI) was developed in the early 1980's as a way of classifying foods with carbohydrates. It is a measure of the rise in blood glucose after eating an individual food containing a specific amount of carbohydrates when compared to consuming the same amount of glucose or white bread. For more than 20 years, studies have been conducted to assess whether the GI is a helpful tool for planning diets for weight loss, diabetes prevention, or the management of blood glucose for people with diabetes. The usefulness of the GI remains controversial globally. In the US, professional groups such as the American Diabetes Association, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans have not recommended the use of the GI as a diet planning tool for people with diabetes, the general population, or people trying to lose weight. In fact, even those who support the use of the GI as a useful tool say that foods should not be judged by their GI alone. Other factors such as nutrient density and fat content need to be considered.

People with Diabetes Can Include Some Foods with Sugars as Part of Their Total Diet

Diabetes is a metabolic disorder that occurs when the body cannot regulate blood glucose levels properly. In diabetes, either the pancreas does not make enough insulin (type 1 diabetes) or the body cannot respond normally to the insulin that is made (type 2 diabetes). The causes of diabetes are complex, although both genetics and environmental factors seem to play a role. Obesity and lack of exercise are important in susceptibility to type 2 diabetes. Interestingly, sugars are not off limits for people with diabetes. Current American Diabetes Association nutritional recommendations do not provide specific guidelines for intake of sugars, noting that sugars and other carbohydrates can be substituted for one another on a calorie-for-calorie basis. The American Diabetes Association also recommends limits on dietary fat and dietary saturated fat for people with diabetes. Maintaining a healthy weight also is important in managing diabetes.

High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) Does Not Cause Obesity

Although rising obesity levels have paralleled the increased use of HFCS in foods and beverages, this is merely an association and does not show cause. There has now been considerable research showing that HFCS does not lead to obesity any more than calories from other sources. The American Medical Association states that HFCS is unlikely to be more harmful to health than other caloric sweeteners. HFCS has a similar composition to table sugar (sucrose) consisting of both glucose and fructose, and the same number of calories (4 per gram) as table sugar, glucose and fructose. HFCS and sucrose are similarly metabolized by the body. Studies examining the effects of HFCS on satiety and appetite have shown no differences between sucrose and HFCS. HFCS-containing beverages also have been compared to other drinks with the same calories (e.g., milk) and are found to have similar effects on appetite and food intake.

Concluding Facts

Over the past 30 years, the average number of calories eaten by adults has increased steadily. According to USDA data, people are consuming more caloric sweeteners in their diets. At the same time, other lifestyle factors have also changed over the past 30 years. More people consume foods away from home than in the home. For many people, the amount of time each day spent being physically active has decreased while the amount of time spent watching television or other sedentary activity has increased. All of these factors add up, and the results show up on the scale. The increase in obesity is a result of the difficulty in maintaining energy balance (calories in versus calories out) to achieve and stay at a desirable weight. For additional information: IFIC Sugars and Health Resources: http://www.foodinsight.org/Resources/Detail.aspxtopic=Sugars_and_Health_Resource_Page The Science of Sugars: Schorin M, Sollid K, Smith Edge M, Bouchoux A. A Closer Look at Sugars. Nutrition Today. 2012;47(3);96101. doi: 10.1097/NT.0b013e3182435de8.


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References: US Department of Agriculture and US Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. 7th ed. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office; 2010 Position Statement for the American Diabetes Association:Nutrition Recommendations and Interventions for Diabetes. Diabetes Care 31 (Suppl. 1):S61S78, 2008 Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:Use of Nutritive and Nonnutritive Sweeteners. http://download.journals.elsevierhealth.com/pdfs/journals/22 12-2672/PIIS2212267212003255.pdf